Part four of five parts; click here to read part three.
58. Gerald and Gwen Austin, Good Neighbors
"Since 1964," says Pastor Gerald Austin, "over 105 different agencies have formed to address the problems of poor in this country. But after 30 years, the problems have not gotten better, but worse."
He, along with his wife of 20 years, Gwen, in 1986 started the Center for Urban Missions, a nonprofit corporation "founded on the hope of bringing the power of God" to inner-city Birmingham, Alabama. Seven years ago, the Austins began the New City Church, a nondenominational, multi-racial, and inner-city congregation that meets in the building that houses the administrative offices of the center. Through the church and the center (with the help of employees and volunteers), Gerald and Gwen are targeting, and reaching, Metropolitan Gardens (MG), Birmingham's largest housing project (with more than 3,000 residents), which also happens to be in the poorest zip code in the nation. "We want to demonstrate that by the power of God, families can be restored, get off welfare, that communities can learn to work together, and that the church can be a part of the solution for the inner city."
Kenny, an MG resident, used to deal drugs and live with his girlfriend, Angie (and their four children), on welfare. Through the ministry of the New City Church, both Kenny and Angie accepted Christ. Today, he works as a bench technician with RAMP (Reaching and Motivating People), a job-creation and -training program cosponsored by the center and Royal Cup Coffee, a Birmingham corporation. Kenny was recently promoted to shop foreman. Kenny and Angie were married at the New City Church—the first couple in both families to be married. With the help ...1